Heron Island snorkeling trip – Great Barrier Reef’s adventures

A Heron Island snorkeling trip is the perfect getaway for couples and families to explore The Great Barrier Reef in Australia! Swim with turtles and rays on this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site!

Why you should visit Heron Island in Australia

This natural coral cay in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef is a paradise for ocean lovers! The Heron Coral Cay is part of the Heron Reef, a fringing platform of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and famous for its biodiversity.

The reef system hosts more than 70% of the GBR coral species and more than 900 fish species. No coincidence, a Heron Island snorkeling trip will be a great experience for young and old! The shallow water provides ideal conditions to explore the underwater world.

Heron Island and the ocean
The idyllic Heron Island

There is no need to take boat trips: you can easily reach the vibrant coral reefs by simply snorkeling from the shore! The Gantry Bay and Shark Bay are perfect for kids and novice snorkelers with calm, current free water! If you want to discover more, join the daily Heron Island snorkeling tours that take you to the nearby Heron and Wistari Reefs.

Snorkeling couple near the shore
The island offers superb offshore snorkeling!

Tip: The best times for snorkeling is around high tide. When on the island, check the daily updated tide charts for actual information on the conditions!

Marine species to see while snorkeling at Heron Island

A Heron Island snorkeling holiday offers you exploring a wide variety of coral species as well as swimming with tropical fish! Sea turtles (Green Sea Turtle and Loggerhead Turtle) can be spotted all year round. If you come between October and March, you will see the breeding population migrating to the region to mate and nest!

Sea turtle over corals
SeIt is almost guaranteed that you will swim turtles!

Tip: do you want to know some sea turtle facts? Browse our marine biology posts and learn interesting things about sea turtle habitat!

Sometimes also dolphins, black tip reef shark, shovelnose sharks are around not to mention the migrating whales around June-September.

Humpback whale mama and calf
If you are lucky, you might see whales too!

The shallow sandy lagoon around the island is frequently visited by rays. You can see the following ray species:

  • Giant Shovel-nosed Ray
  • White-spotted Eagle Ray
  • Cow-tail Ray
  • Blue-spotted Fantail Ray
  • Pink-whip Tail ray
  • Manta Ray

The Heron Island Shipwreck

Did you know that the island has its own shipwreck too? The HMAS Protector, a gunboat of the South Australian Government was responsible for the defense of the coastline. The Protector served in World War I and II. In 1943, it got damaged on its way to New Guinea and was taken to Heron to serve as a breakwater.

Today, the Protector Wreck is a nice Heron Island snorkeling spot that provides explorers with many fish to observe. By low tide and calm seas, you can also walk to the wreck!

Heron Island Resort

No matter you plan a romantic getaway with your loved one, a fun family vacation, or an active Heron Island snorkeling holiday, the resort offers accommodation for everyone. The Reef and Turtle family rooms can accommodate families up to 5, while the Point Suites, Wistari Suites and Beach Houses with stunning ocean views are perfect for couples. The delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner menu is served in the Shearwater Restaurant.

Heron Island Resort
Heron Island Resort- such a perfect place to unwind and relax!

There are no Heron Island day trips in order to protect the natural beauty and ensuring the resort’s privacy. To help the guests disconnect, there are no television in the rooms but you can watch sport events in the Baillies Bar. To fully release the stress, let the Aqua Soul Spa therapists help your body and mind get back to balance.

The Heron Island Resort is a busy hotel all year round. Due to its limited room capacity, make sure to book your rooms in time especially if you plan to arrive in the Christmas Holiday Season or when an event takes place like the Dive Festival in July or the Great Barrier Reef Swim in October.

Check the room rates and deals here: Heron Island Resort


The island’s natural beauty is really worth to explore and you get tons of programs to learn about the local flora and fauna! You can participate on wildlife presentations, guided bird life walk, turtle tours and reef walks.

Heron Island at sunset
Don’t miss out the spectacular sunsets!

Besides these activities, fishing trips, semi-submarine excursions, sunset cruises and stargazing trips are available. Water lovers can choose kayaking, diving and of course snorkeling! For novice snorkelers, the resort offers snorkel lessons too.

Tip: are you looking for more places to explore Australia’s rich marine life? Read our Lady Elliot Island snorkeling post too!

How to get to Heron Island

This tiny paradise lies in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, 80 km from Queensland Australia and accessible from Gladstone. If you are coming from major Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, you need to fly to Gladstone then catch a ferry, seaplane or helicopter depending on your budget.


The easiest and most popular way of getting to the island is taking the Heron Island ferry. A modern and comfortable vessel with a seating capacity up to 170 people runs daily except Tuesdays and Thursdays. The ferry leaves the island at 10:00, departs Gladstone at 14:00. One-way ticket costs approx 70 AUD for adults, kids go for half price.


Do yourself a favor and enjoy the magical view of the Great Barrier Reef from the air while heading to your dream holiday location on a seaplane! You can book this unique experience from 349 AUD per way for adults.

The Great Barrier Reef from the air
You can enjoy this magical view if you decide to take the seaplane or heli journey!


Do you arrive for your wedding, honeymoon or to celebrate any other special event? Make your stay unforgettable and unique by choosing the helicopter journey! During a scenic 30 minutes long trip you will have the opportunity to fly over the Coral Sea reefs and observe sharks, turtles and rays. Adult tickets are available from 449 AUD.

Best time to visit Heron Island

You can enjoy pleasant temperatures all year round thanks to the subtropical climate. For a beach holiday, schedule your visit between October and March which is the summer season. This is the best time for a Heron Island snorkeling holiday with hot air temperatures (27-29 C / 84-86 F) and warm water temperatures (24-26 C / 75 -79 F).

The cooler months from April to September bring pleasant weather to enjoy nature and observe the wildlife. In June and July, the average temperature is around 21 C / 70 F both for the air and water. Water activities are possible this time of the year too, but bring a snorkeling wetsuit!

If you wish to observe whales, giant turtles laying eggs on the beaches or baby sea turtles, plan your holiday according to this calendar:

Turtle nesting season: November-March
Turtle hatching season: January-May
Humpback whale season: June-September

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Snorkeling Australia Heron Island

Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!